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RIZAL, Philippines – Residents of Lupang Arenda and environmentalists pushed back against the local municipal council’s swift passage of a proposed resolution of “no objection” to the construction of the Taytay portion of the Pasig River Expressway (PAREX).
The controversial 19.37-kilometer-long PAREX project of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) Infrastructure runs from the Pasig River, reaching the Napindan River near Lupang Arenda, and links to the proposed Southeast Metro Manila Expressway (SEMME) or C-6 project.
Taytay Mayor Allan de Leon, through the municipal administrator, certified the proposed resolution of “no objection,” facilitating its supposed quick approval with the endorsement of Councilor Philip Jeison Cruz in the first reading at the council’s session on December 6.
In response, the Alliance of People’s Organization in Lupang Arenda (APOLA), Ilog Pasiglahin, and Move As One Coalition – Lupang Arenda and advocacy groups – emphasized the project’s negative impact on communities during the council’s session.
Ilog Pasiglahin and Move As One Coalition warned of “considerable harm” from PAREX in Lupang Arenda, including increased flooding, earthquake risks, reduced river flow, and environmental degradation, affecting residents’ livelihoods of duck raising along the Napindan River.
Decades of struggle for the formal settlement of the 19,000 households in Lupang Arenda, a socialized housing area since 1995, is further aggravated by the impending PAREX and SEMME expressways within their 95-hectare area.
Representing residents at the municipal hearing, APOLA president Vicente Barlos warned that the project heightens flood risks and hampers their pursuit of land ownership through executive proclamation.
“Mawawalan na kami ng lupa para sa pabahay, babahain at babahain pa kami para doon sa isang proyekto na hindi naman serbisyo kung hindi negosyo,” he said in an interview on December 22.
(We will not only lose land for housing, but we will also be subject to flooding because of a project that is for profit and not for public service.)
A 2009 executive order revoked housing rights in Lupang Arenda for the obstruction of the Napindan River flow post-Tropical Storm Ondoy (Ketsana) yet Barlos claimed that the PAREX pillars would worsen the blockage.
“‘Yung pagbaha na ‘yan, ‘yan na nga ‘yung dahilan ng pagbawi. Bakit 10 taon makalipas, sila mismo ang maglalagay ng poste sa gitna ng ilog?” he said.
(That flooding, that’s precisely the reason for the revocation. Why, after 10 years, are they the ones installing posts in the middle of the river?)
Meanwhile, Councilor Tobit Cruz said that Taytay was the first local government unit to be approached for the proposed resolution, despite PAREX primarily traversing Metro Manila cities.
“I think they (SMC Infrastructure) first went to Taytay because we’re the only municipality and the smallest LGU to be affected by the project. They’re still testing the waters,” he said in an interview on Wednesday, December 27.
Cruz said SMC Infrastructure repeatedly pursued the requested resolution at the Taytay municipal office, leading to its certified approval, despite no presentation to the council.
Yet during the December 6 hearing, no representative from the proponents and the mayor addressed concerns amid strong opposition from groups.
SMC Infrastructure was contacted to air their side for this story, but the company has yet to reply as of posting time. This story will be updated once they respond.
With this, the council moved to refer the proposed resolution of no objection on the PAREX construction to their committee en banc for further deliberations, dismissing the urgency of its approval. Another meeting to tackle the proposal has yet to be scheduled.
For Cruz, who initially shared the hearing on social media, the project is questionable since most residents in Lupang Arenda do not own vehicles and there are no public transport routes within the area.
“To whom are they actually designing that road for? I don’t think it’s for the general public, but it’s just for those with cars,” he said.
Meanwhile, Barlos said that they would continue to pay close attention to further developments of the proposed resolution, given the vast power of the project’s proponents.
“San Miguel [Corporation] kasi ‘yan eh, hindi natin alam ang mangyayari (That’s San Miguel Corporation, we don’t know what could happen),” he said. – Rappler.com